28 Nov 2018

NZ's dairy cow population on the rise

4:56 pm on 28 November 2018

New Zealand's dairy cow population is nearly back at the five million mark.

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Just over half of dairy cows in New Zealand are based in the North Island. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

A report from industry group Dairy NZ shows the country's national milking herd stood at 4.99 million in the 2017-18 season, up 2.7 percent on the season prior.

This, however, is not the highest number ever recorded. Back in the 2014-15 season there were about 26,000 more dairy cows being milked, which pushed the national milking herd over five million.

The report shows the average dairy herd size for the season just ended was at 431 - that's 17 cows more than 2016-17.

It found expansion of the dairy herd in the South Island contributed to that lift.

Meanwhile milk production per cow decreased by 3.4 percent to an average of 368 kilograms of milk solids, with the decline being put down to the difficult spring experienced in 2017.

"South Island farms have, on average, higher herd production than herds in the North Island, with North Canterbury recording the highest average herd production at 331 kilograms of milk solids," the report said.

"This reflects a combination of larger herd sizes, a high stocking rate, and high kilograms of milk solids per cow."

The report found just over half of dairy cows are based in the North Island, with the remaining 41 percent in the South.

"Farms in the South Island are, on average, larger than those in the North Island (both in terms of farm area and cow numbers)," it said.